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   Chapter 22 THE SIEGE IS RAISED

Phil, the Fiddler By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 9532

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


Though Phil was the besieged party, his position was decidedly preferable to that of Pietro. The afternoon was passing, and he was earning nothing. He finally uncovered his organ and began to play. A few gathered around him, but they were of that class with whom money is not plenty. So after a while, finding no pennies forthcoming, he stopped suddenly, but did not move on, as his auditors expected him to. He still kept his eyes fixed on Mrs. McGuire's dwelling. He did this so long as to attract observation.

"You'll know the house next time, mister," said a sharp boy.

Pietro was about to answer angrily, when a thought struck him.

"Will you do something for me?" he asked.

"How much?" inquired the boy, suggestively.

"Five cents," answered Pietro, understanding his meaning.

"It isn't much," said the boy, reflectively. "Tell me what you want."

Though Pietro was not much of a master of English, he contrived to make the boy understand that he was to go round to the back door and tell Mrs. McGuire that he, Pietro, was gone. He intended to hide close by, and when Phil came out, as he hoped, on the strength of his disappearance, he would descend upon him and bear him off triumphantly.

Armed with these instructions, the boy went round to the back door and knocked.

Thinking it might be Phil's enemy, Mrs. McGuire went to the door, holding in one hand a dipper of hot suds, ready to use in case of emergency.

"Well, what do you want?" she asked, abruptly, seeing that it was a boy.

"He's gone," said the boy.

"Who's gone?"

"The man with the hand-organ, ma'am."

"And what for do I care?" demanded Bridget, suspiciously.

This was a question the boy could not answer. In fact, he wondered himself why such a message should have been sent. He could only look at her in silence.

"Who told you to tell the man was gone?" asked Bridget, with a shrewdness worthy of a practitioner at the bar.

"The Italian told me."

"Did he?" repeated Bridget, who saw into the trick at once. "He's very kind."

"He didn't want you to know he told me," said the boy, remembering his instructions when it was too late.

Mrs. McGuire nodded her head intelligently.

"True for you," said she. "What did he pay you for tellin' me?"

"Five cents."

"Thin it's five cints lost. Do you want to earn another five cints?"

"Yes," said the boy, promptly.

"Thin do what I tell you."

"What is it?"

"Come in and I'll tell you."

The boy having entered, Mrs. McGuire led him to the front door.

"Now," said she, "when I open the door, run as fast as you can. The man that sint you will think it is another boy, and will run after you. Do ye mind?"

The young messenger began to see the joke, and was quite willing to help carry it out. But even the prospective fun did not make him forgetful of his promised recompense.

"Where's the five cents?" he asked.

"Here," said Bridget, and diving into the depths of a capacious pocket, she drew out five pennies.

"That's all right," said the boy. "Now, open the door."

Bridget took care to make a noise in opening the door, and, as it opened, she said in a loud and exultant voice, "You're all safe now; the man's gone."

"Now run," she said, in a lower voice.

The boy dashed out of the doorway, but Mrs. McGuire remained standing there. She was not much surprised to see Pietro run out from the other side of the house, and prepare to chase the runaway. But quickly perceiving that he was mistaken, he checked his steps, and turning, saw Mrs. McGuire with a triumphant smile on her face.

"Why don't you run?" she said. "You can catch him."

"It isn't my brother," he answered, sullenly.

"I thought you was gone," she said.

"I am waiting for my brother."

"Thin you'll have to wait. You wanted to chate me, you haythen! But Bridget McGuire ain't to be took in by such as you. You'd better lave before my man comes home from his work, or he'll give you lave of absence wid a kick."

Without waiting for an answer, Bridget shut the door, and bolted it-leaving her enemy routed at all points.

In fact Pietro began to lose courage. He saw that he had a determined foe to contend with. He had been foiled thus far in every effort to obtain possession of Phil. But the more difficult the enterprise seemed, the more anxious he became to carry it out successfully. He knew that the padrone would not give him a very cordial reception if he returned without Phil, especially as he would be compelled to admit that he had seen him, and had nevertheless failed to secure him. His uncle would not be able to appreciate the obstacles he had encountered, but would consider him in fault. For this reason he did not like to give up the siege, though he

saw little hopes of accomplishing his object. At length, however, he was obliged to raise the siege, but from a cause with which neither Phil nor his defender had anything to do.

The sky, which had till this time been clear, suddenly darkened. In ten minutes rain began to fall in large drops. A sudden shower, unusual at this time of the year, came up, and pedestrians everywhere, caught without umbrellas, fled panic-stricken to the nearest shelter. Twice before, as we know, Pietro had suffered from a shower of warm water. This, though colder, was even more formidable. Vanquished by the forces of nature, Pietro shouldered his instrument and fled incontinently. Phil might come out now, if he chose. His enemy had deserted his post, and the coast was clear.

"That'll make the haythen lave," thought Mrs. McGuire, who, though sorry to see the rain on account of her washing, exulted in the fact that Pietro was caught out in it.

She went to the front door and looked out. Looking up the street, she just caught a glimpse of the organ in rapid retreat. She now unbolted the door, the danger being at an end, and went up to acquaint Phil with the good news.

"You may come down now," she said.

"Is he gone?" inquired Phil.

"Shure he's runnin' up the street as fast as his legs can carry him."

"Thank you for saving me from him," said, Phil, with a great sense of relief at the flight of his enemy.

"Whisht now; I don't nade any thanks. Come down by the fire now."

So Phil went down, and Bridget, on hospitable thoughts intent, drew her only rocking-chair near the stove, and forced Phil to sit down in it. Then she told him, with evident enjoyment, of the trick which Pietro had tried to play on her, and how he had failed.

"He couldn't chate me, the haythen!" she concluded. "I was too smart for the likes of him, anyhow. Where do you live when you are at home?"

"I have no home now," said Phil, with tears in his eyes.

"And have you no father and mother?"

"Yes," said Phil. "They live in Italy."

"And why did they let you go so far away?"

"They were poor, and the padrone offered them money," answered Phil, forced to answer, though the subject was an unpleasant one.

"And did they know he was a bad man and would bate you?"

"I don't think they knew," said Phil, with hesitation. "My mother did not know."

"I've got three childer myself," said Bridget; "they'll get wet comin' home from school, the darlints-but I wouldn't let them go with any man to a far country, if he'd give me all the gowld in the world. And where does that man live that trates you so bad?"

"In New York."

"And does Peter-or whatever the haythen's name is-live there too?"

"Yes, Pietro lives there. The padrone is his uncle, and treats him better than the rest of us. He sent him after me to bring me back."

"And what is your name? Is it Peter, like his?"

"No; my name is Filippo."

"It's a quare name."

"American boys call me Phil."

"That's better. It's a Christian name, and the other isn't. Before I married my man I lived five years at Mrs. Robertson's, and she had a boy they called Phil. His whole name was Philip."

"That's my name in English."

"Then why don't you call it so, instead of Philip-O? What good is the O, anyhow? In my country they put the O before the name, instead of to the tail-end of it. My mother was an O'Connor. But it's likely ivery country has its own ways."

Phil knew very little of Ireland, and did not fully understand Mrs. McGuire's philosophical remarks. Otherwise they might have amused him, as they may possibly amuse my readers.

I cannot undertake to chronicle the conversation that took place between Phil and his hostess. She made numerous inquiries, to some of which he was able to give satisfactory replies, to others not. But in half an hour there was an interruption, and a noisy one. Three stout, freckled-faced children ran in at the back door, dripping as if they had just emerged from a shower-bath. Phil moved aside to let them approach the stove.

Forthwith Mrs. McGuire was engaged in motherly care, removing a part of the wet clothing, and lamenting for the state in which her sturdy offspring had returned. But presently order was restored, and the bustle was succeeded by quiet.

"Play us a tune," said Pat, the oldest.

Phil complied with the request, and played tune after tune, to the great delight of the children, as well as of Mrs. McGuire herself. The result was that when, shortly after, on the storm subsiding, Phil proposed to go, the children clamored to have him stay, and he received such a cordial invitation to stop till the next morning that he accepted, nothing loath. So till the next morning our young hero is provided for.

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